Perinatal anxiety and depression

Perinatal anxiety and depression can begin during pregnancy, immediately after birth, or in the weeks or months after childbirth.

Postnatal refers to the period after childbirth.
Perinatal refers to the period during pregnancy and the year following birth.
Antenatal refers to the period during the pregnancy, before childbirth occurs.

It is normal to experience changes in emotions when becoming a parent, however, some people develop stronger feelings of anxiety or depression which affect their daily life and how they interact with others and their baby.

Perinatal depression and anxiety is a diagnosable condition and needs to be considered:

  • If you are experiencing strong emotions which are impacting your ability to function in your usual way
  • If you are experiencing low mood lasting for two weeks or more
  • If this is accompanied by a lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life, or feeling ‘numb’

Perinatal depression and anxiety affects almost 100,000 expectant and new parents in Australia each year. It is a recognised and diagnosable medical condition. The severity of symptoms will be different for every parent and may include changes to mood, behaviour and/or changes to relationships. Parents can benefit greatly from seeking professional help. 

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a particular set of reactions triggered in people who have been through a traumatic or life-threatening event.

Sometimes it is triggered by stressful events surrounding the period before, during or after the birth of your baby. In others, symptoms of PTSD may have been present prior to your baby being born, however all the emotion of becoming a parent may have triggered an increased level of distress.
Most of the emotional challenges faced by new parents can be resolved or alleviated with the right care, information and support. Remember that help is always available and getting the right support early on can get you on the road to recovery more quickly.

If you have an existing mental health concern, it is important to proactively manage it before conception, and especially during pregnancy and the first months and years after your baby is born.

This includes speaking to your GP, psychologist or psychiatrist about your pregnancy plans and exploring what aspects you will need to monitor or adjust. Together, you may decide to update your support plan, monitor your medication and identify a plan of practical action if you become unwell during this time.

If you have new emotional challenges or mental health concerns, you can:

  • Confide in your partner, trusted friend or family member
  • Let your GP or other trusted health professional know what you’re experiencing and how you are feeling
  • Talk to other parents who may be feeling similar emotions

It is very important to take action to connect with support if your mental health feels like it is deteriorating - it’s one of the first great steps you can take as a new parent.

All the usual advice for optimising wellbeing applies, but usually it has a twist for new parents:

  • Getting adequate sleep and rest – this may be a challenge with a new baby, so talk to your partner/support person to figure out how you will approach it. Maybe you will organise that you will help each other to have a few hours uninterrupted ‘catch-up’ sleep each weekend, or occasionally stay at a friend or relative’s house for a night to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

  • Seek support – pregnancy and parenting can be both joyous and challenging in equal parts. Talking to friends and family about how you are finding it – both the good and bad – can turn up support where you least expect it. On the same note, a local or online parents group can help you develop support among people whose children are a similar age or live in your area.

  • Choose healthy foods – eating well is always important for emotional health, but it is vital for new mums who are breastfeeding, and for both parents who are having less sleep than they would like. For the same reason, alcohol and too much caffeine are likely to increase emotional issues rather than fix them.

  • Getting regular physical exercise – there is growing evidence about the very strong link between being active and good mental health, and it is especially useful for stress reduction. For this reason, when you are pregnant or have a baby, it is wise to still factor this in every day. It can be as simple as taking a walk outside with the pram, or leaving the baby with a trusted caregiver while you play a team sport.

The Mental Health checklist below is for expecting and new mums and dads to see if what you’re experiencing or observing could be a reason to seek help:

PANDA Mental Health Checklist

Visit the following websites for more information on perinatal anxiety and depression, and other emotional issues experienced by new and expectant parents go to:
• Gidget Foundation
• Beyond Blue

Where we offer these services

Call 1800 292 292 to speak to one of our friendly caregivers.

36-38 First Avenue, Blacktown NSW 2148
Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

U13, 25-51 Learmonth Road, Wendouree VIC 3355
Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

15 MacKenzie Street, Bendigo VIC 3550
Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

57 Fairholme Boulevard, Berwick VIC 3806
Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

Lower level, 265 Ryrie Street, Geelong VIC 3220
Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

14/11 Wentworth Parade, Success WA 6164 

2/116 Pinjarra Road, Mandurah WA 6210

Stan and Jean Perron Child Advocacy Centre
1 Watertank Way, Midland WA 6056

Level 3, 30 Dundebar Road, Wanneroo WA 6065

192 Cambridge Street, Wembley WA 6014

Tel: 1800 292 292
Fax: 1800 433 992
Email: [email protected]

Mailing address:
192 Cambridge Street
Wembley WA 6014